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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

PPM #2: Bamboo Shoot Dress

The idea
Most of the patterns and their instructions in the first Pattern Magic book are only designed to show what can be done with fabric manipulation. As Carolyn states, they're not so much finished garments as design concepts. It's up to the maker how to apply these concepts. This requires some creativity on the part of the maker, but also some experience with basic sewing and drafting techniques. For this month I chose the bamboo shoot bodice. It didn't seem very hard (I can be overconfident like that! Sometimes it helps, sometimes it comes around to bite me in the butt) and I thought I might be able to make it wearable. This design is feminine and delicate, so my thoughts turned towards a simple dress.

I had to go to IKEA anyway (yes had to, I swear, it was work-related!) so I checked out their fabrics (no luck) which are next to the bedsheets. And that's where I found my fabric! It's 100% lyocell, which is similar to rayon but the production process is more environmental friendly. It's really soft and almost silky in drape and touch, but heavier. I mean, who wouldn't want to wear soft bedsheets like that all day? The only disadvantage is that is wrinkles like crazy. Which is good if you want folds that stay put on themselves, but not if you want to move and sit down in it.

It's entirely possible that I love the back even more than the front! I'm so happy this pattern placement turned out well. I used my own bodice blocks to draft the pattern. If the pattern was going to be fitted, I'd rather have them drawn on my measurements. Literally every seam is different from the sloper that comes with the book. Only when you start drawing your patterns based on your actual measurements you realize that not only the bust or waist can be different, but also waist length, armscye depth, bust height and what not. The skirt is a half circle skirt.

Cutting and sewing
But let's take a look at the bamboo shoot. The book says to draw the bamboo shoot pattern, but does not share details on measurements. So I eyeballed it and decided to go with shoots 6 cm wide. The angle is a bit off, the top V should be at the center but it's half a cm to the left. If you want to know more about the process of making the shoot, Marianna from Sew2Pro has a better post on how to draw this. I should have read that first :). I muslined the bodice to practice the folding. I just drew the outlines on the fabric with a pencil, which made it easier to get neat folds. On the final piece I hand sewed the folds just inside the seam so it wouln't show. The book says just to sew the intersections, but that won't hold if you'll actually wear it. I also trimmed the seam allowances to reduce bulk. The whole dress is lined with the same fabric, the underside of the sheet.

Cutting this out was even harder than making the bamboo shoot. I tried to line things up but had limited space because I bought the one-person sheet. And I made the mistake of not checking the skirt pattern: it turned out I used one drafted for a friend with completely different measurements. Oops... It was shorter than I had intended, and too narrow at the waist. I had to add an extra strip of fabric at the sideseam. Not so nice. The dress closes with a blind zip at the side seam. Confession: It's not finished yet. I have to re-do a seam because it puckers, hand stitch the lining to the zip, and hem it. I'm scared to though, I'm not sure I could hem it without stretching the seams. Any suggestions for hemming rayon?

It was very nice to sew some frosting again! I'm checking out that bedsheet section more often, that's for sure. The bamboo shoot was interesting to make, but I think the dress would have been pretty without it too. I'm planning on wearing this dress to a wedding next week, so it will get worn at least once :). No clue what to wear with it though, in terms of colour and style. How would you style it?

Marianna's february project demonstrates another way of how to incorporate some magic into your designs by altering the just the facing of the bodice. And like she says, if you'd like to join us, remember no project is too small (nor big!) and you have months to prepare. Just blog about it on the last Wednesday of any month or, if you’re blogless, send either of us an email with your pics and we’ll host a post for you. The date for next month is March 27th!

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Yes, this coat deserves an all caps title. This long project has finally come to an end. I no longer have to embarass Stef by wearing my work jacket. I can parade the streets with my head held high because I have a stylish, well-fitting, warm and unique coat! Let me talk no further, I'll show you the evidence.

After my last post in which I asked you for advice on fit issues, I've improved several areas:
  1. Taking in 5 mm across the whole length of both back princess seams
  2. Taking in 2 mm at the center back seam on the upper back
  3. Taking in 3 mm at the front princess seams around the bust
  4. Resetting sleeves at pucker area
  5. Shaping and rounding off collar corners
  6. Lowering right front of collar
  7. Taking out excess fabric at the back neck
I've discussed number one through four with you, but when I looked closer there were some more areas that needed attention. Sometimes I just wanted to close it up, but every time a voice said: but what about this and this issue? And then I figured I had already spent so much time on it, I'd just as well fix every little issue. And I'm glad I did!

I took these pictures at the little town where my dad lives. It's a very old town, city rights date back to 1200 AD. It has been subject to many sieges and has been occupied by the Spanish (16th century), the French (18th century and the Germans (20th century). These bronze cannons are leftovers from the occupation by Napoleon's army and date back to 1778. Their bear the names (apparently cannons have names!) of L'intriguant (the schemer) and Le Partisan (the ally). The perfect place to show off my military coat, right?

I really love this deep, vibrant shade of green, most accurately pictured in the last two pics. This is my first coat, and maybe I could have picked an easier pattern. With all these seams there's also more room for errors. I could have know, the label saying 'advanced' and 'masterpiece'. But I learned so much, and the outcome is exactly what I wanted, so I don't really mind having spent all these hours on it! I'll do another post with some detail shots, there is lots more to tell. About welt pockets and why to cut flaps on the bias, about the extra zipper I added, and about the two different kinds of lining. You can find that post here!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Design Review: Instructions

Again I'd like to thank you for filling out the previous survey. I can't believe how elaborate some of your answers are, I really really appreciate that! And I love how some of you have the same ideas that I already had, which means I'm on the right track! I'm planning a special Design Review giveaway to express my gratitude :) If you'd like to share your opinion too, check the previous two Design Reviews:

Paper Goods
Style & Size

So today I'd like to talk with you about the instructions that come with a pattern. Again, a lot of decisions have to be made and all designers seem to have chosen differently. One thing is for sure: in general the instructions that come with indie patterns are a big improvement compared to most magazines (I'm looking at you, Burda).

Sewaholic is the only one with instructions in the shape of a fold out leaflet. I like the overwiew of the steps you get this way, but it also takes up a lot of space on my sewing table. So I prefer having a booklet to flip through. Not as tiny as Papercut's though. Funny that the one with the biggest package has such a small instruction booklet. What I like about digital patterns is that I open the instructions on my iPad. A combination might be possible too, get the physical pattern but download the instructions. It would make printing cheaper and adjustments are easily made. What do you think?

Different sizes of instruction booklets. Clockwise: Sewaholic, Papercut, Megan Nielsen.

Victory is the only one who uses a combination of photo's and illustrations to support the text. Personally I like illustrations better, it's easier to see what's going on. What I like is that most designers have blogposts where they explain certain steps of the process in more detail, with photos. Sometimes this is part of a sewalong, but Grainline has picked out the most elusive part of the process, in case of the Moss skirt installing the fly. How would you like the text to be visualized?

Victory Patterns' instructions
Additional info
What other information besides the cutting layout and fabric choice would you want in your instructions? Would you want me to explain different techniques you can use? For example, Colette explains how to make flat felled seams for the Negroni, and how to press pockets. Deer & Doe has minimized the use of illustrations as you can see. Grainline just says 'finish seam as desired'. Papercut says 'overlock the edges' but gives no alternative for what to do when you don't have an overlocker. Do you have ideas about additional information?

Information heavyness: Colette vs Deer & Doe

To be honest, I rarely follow the instructions to the letter. I also haven't made up all of these patterns (planning to, though) so I haven't come across any difficulties yet. Have you made anything from these designers, and what do you think about the clarity of the instructions?

Below you can find the form! If it's visible you can fill it in, if not, click here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sample Sewing: Folded (Not So) Mini

I'm hoping you'll be pleased to see this one! It's Sample nr. 2, the longer version of the folded mini. A lot of people requested a longer version, and now that I've made one I'm convinced that this is a really good option too! Due to the nature of the folds I had to draft a completely new pattern for it. It was a good opportunity to test my adjustments and choose a technique for the zipper. The silhouette hasn't changed, it's still a fitted skirt that accentuates your feminine curves.

The fabric is a medium weight knit, lined with a navy interlock knit. This was much easier to work with than the slinky knit. Again there are no exposed seams on the inside dus to the way it is put together. Yay for not having to finish seams :) I basicaly added one extra fold to get the length. These horizontal stripes do make me look a bit big, but that's also due to the way I'm wearing it. Normally I wear a cardigan on top which balances it out a bit more.

I chose to do an exposed zip at the cb, because a side one would be messy with all that fabric. I really like it, it feels like it fits the style of the skirt. Only maybe it could be 1 or 2 cm's shorter, no? And I'm also thinking this would be really good paired with a navy blazer. I need one more sample to check if my instructions are correct. It'll probably be a long version again, this skirt is so warm and cozy! And I can wear it on more occasions than the short version. I'm already thinking of putting up an Etsy shop to sell some samples. There must me someone else with an off the scale hip/waist ratio, right? After that, it's time to digitalize it and find some pattern testers! So tell me, is this what you had in mind?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thrift Store Treasures #8

The print on this waistcoat drew my attention right away. I snatched it off the rack before they had even put in in the store. It cost me 4 euro's, well worth the money because it doesn't seem to have been worn much. I've never had or worn a waistcoat, but I felt that this one could be integrated into my wardrobe. As far as I can tell it's handmade in India, but nothing turned up when I googled the label.

As you can see it's a men's waistcoat, with two little welt pockets on the front. To make it fit, I started with taking an inch off both sideseams. I widened the neckline by 1cm, tapering to the center front and 2 cm at the back neckline. I also added two small armhole darts. It can be an advantage not to have to make it very 3D at the front, just a little shaping is enough for me. It doesn't sound like much, but it still took me a couple of hours to make these adjustments. I enyojed working on it and being precise. If someone has made this by hand, it feels good to treat it with care and give it a new life.

I tried it out with two different shirts. I'm not sure if the white shirt is a good idea, it makes the white in the waistcoat look a bit dirty. But I love this style, especially unbuttoned. Again, I need to make myself more slouchy blouses!

The back has a little buckle so you can accentuate the waist more. I'm curious what you think of the result. For me this is really a new kind of garment to wear, but I already feel very comfortable in it. What do you think of this style? Do you wear waistcoats?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sample Sewing - Folded Mini 1

I promised to keep you involved in the process of starting this business, so this time I'll show you my first Folded Mini sample. It doesn't look very different from the first two (here and here), but the big difference is that this skirt is made off an actual pattern. The first ones I just draped, roughly based on measurements. I drafted the pattern in my class, based on a basic skirt block. It will make the folding part a whole lot easier! The whole point of making a sample is to find out if your pattern works, and I'm glad to say that it does! There are some adjustments I had to make, but these will be tested again in the second sample.

It's made out of the slinkiest of slinky knits, a 50% cotton, 50% rayon jersey. It has a lot of stretch, so there's really no need for a zipper here. The polkadots are fun but hide the folds a bit. I wanted to check out what would happen with a print like this. I'm thinking plain or striped knits would be best. I only used my regular sewing machine, to try out the best techniques for putting this together. It worked out fine, although my machine still has some trouble with super stretchy stuff like this. My triple stretch stitch did wonders for the waistband, the seam still has a lot of stretch and I'm sure it won't snap.

Your responses on my Folded Mini Survey are not used in this version, but they will be in the second one! 46% wanted to see a longer version, 20% wanted a zipper, and 20% wanted a folded back option. The folded back would really add too much bulk at the side seams, and it's harder to incorporate darts and a closure in the folded part. I didn't want this pattern to get overly complicated, so there will be no folded back option. Whether you use a zipper will not be dependent on the length, but rather on the weight and stretch of your knit fabric. Other inprovements are raising the back and using darts for a better fit. So in case you were worried after seeing my (erm, quite horrible) tutorial, I promise you'll get a good pattern, with two length options and clear instructions!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Design Review: Style & Size

First: thank you so much for taking the time to fill out the last Design Review! You answers are very helpful, and also heartwarming in terms of encouraging comments. I've already learned a lot of useful things about Paper Goods. (Haven't filled it out yet? Go here to give your opinion and influence my future patterns!). I'll do a post about it after I've collected all of it.

In this second Design Review, I'd like to discuss pattern style with you. Every designer makes patterns that cohere with her own style and taste in clothing. But you also have to decide how many pattern variations there will be, and what sizing you'll choose. I've created a little survey again, and it would be awesome if you'd fill it out for me! This will help me design patterns that coincide with your wishes - the most important criterium if I want this to turn into a business.

A detail of Victory patterns' Simone

The seven designers we're discussing (Colette, Grainline, Sewaholic, Victory, Papercut, Megan Nielsen, Deer & Doe) all have a somewhat different style. Colette leans toward vintage, and has mostly classy and feminine dresses. Megan Nielsen designs fun day-to-day wear that is easy to move in. Grainline has a clean minimalistic style and focuses on basics. Deer & Doe to me is a bit of a mix between Colette and Megan Nielsen. (The Sureau looks quite similatr to the Darling Ranges, don't you think?). Papercut has the cute, modern patterns, aimed towards a slightly younger audience. Victory has a distinctive style of her own, with flowy dresses and interesting detailing. And Sewaholic, as we all know, designs basic patterns for pear shaped women. If you ask me, there is something available for everyone. What I'd personally like to add is patterns that are a bit more edgy, not so much vintage and cute, but interesting and comfortable. Say, a mix between Victory's distinctiveness and Grainline's minimalism. I am hoping ofcourse that this is exactly what you're looking for ;). But I should ask first: is there a design style you think is missing?

Sewaholic's Pendrell Blouse variations

Personally, I love a pattern that gives me different options. Sewaholic is very good at this, always giving you as many options as a pattern can handle, it seems. Most designers offer at least two. Why some would offer only one sleeve length, is probably because they don't think other lengths are part of the design they have in mind. For me that means I'm less likely to buy a pattern. I would be aiming for as many variations as I could think of, as long as they do justice to the main design and are easy to build in to the patterns. It also gives you more worth for your money, because you get to make different garments from one pattern. But I can also imagine that more variations can make you indecisive and less inclined to choose and actually make it. So I'm curious, do you like pattern variations? Or would you rather avoid having to choose?
Grainline's Size Chart
This is a difficult topic. There's been some discussions about sizing lately, and whether or not they are based on true measurements, or the ideal ones. I've collected 9 sizing charts, and compared their size ratio based on my bust measurement, 88 cm (34.5"). I'm not comparing waist or hip because mine are a bit out of whack, no size chart ever fits these measurements. It turns out that every designer has it's own look on what a woman with an 88 bust looks like. According to Victory, I'd have a 66 (26") waist and a 91.5 (36") hip. Broad upper body, slim hips. Compare this to Grainline, who thinks a woman with 88 bust has a 71 (28") waist and a 96.5 hip (38"). That's difference of 2 whole inches in waist and hip! This woman would be more of a rectangle. A bit of an exaggeration, but it's still a big difference. Also, women seem to be bigger down under. I'm an XS with Megan Nielsen and Papercut, everywhere else I'm usually a 38/M/6-8. Or would this have been done to make me feel better about my measurements?

Another difference is the variation in grading. The difference seems to be connected to geographical location. European standards dictate 4 cm (1.6") difference between sizes. American patterns seem to vary between 2.5 and 5 (1-2"), and Papercut has no less than 6 cm (2.4"). Some vary these within the same chart, some don't. To me, 6 cm would make it very likely that someone would fall between sizes. On the other hand, you'd have to grade less patterns to get a bigger size range. So my question for you is: Do you usually fall within one size column? Do you have thoughts about sizing charts? Do you feel they reflect actual women?

Below you can find the form. If you're reading this in Google Reader, click here!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Most Worn Outfit

The only clothing you see here is what I make. I like to say that I've been wearing something a lot and this is usually true, but it is never what I wear the most. I have a mostly outdoors job, which involves messing with algae and water, hauling pipes, hoses and buckets and walking around on safety shoes. This means that, unfortunatly for my pretty handmade wardrobe, this is what I wear most days of the week:

Sexy, eh? That's a merino wool shirt underneath. To make it even better, I bought myself a real workmen's jacket (always a men's jacket, they don't even make this stuff for women). I was sick of being cold all the time, and this jacket is like my comfy warm cocoon, protecting me from the winter winds and snow. It's cleverly made, with a detachable fake fur body lining and all kinds of handy pockets. The fingerless hobo gloves really finish it off.

This is also why I so desperately needed a good winter coat. I've had the tendency to wear this all the time because I'm never cold in it. Stef doesn't really care what I wear, but there's a limit for him too, and that's this jacket :)